The Israeli police decided to reopen on Sunday evening (25) the areas near the entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem. The restrictions have been one of the causes of discontent among Palestinian protesters, who have clashed with security forces in recent days.
Police announced a megaphone permit near Damascus Gate, one of the entrances to the site. Then Palestinian protesters celebrated the decision and removed the gates that isolated the area.
A police spokesperson told AFP news agency the decision was made “after consultations with local authorities and clergy and an assessment of the situation, taking into account traders who need to survive. and [os esforços] to reduce the level of violence. “Our forces continue to operate in the region and we will not allow the return of violence,” the spokesperson added.
Israeli officials now expect violence to erupt in Jerusalem. On Saturday (24), Israeli police and Palestinian groups clashed again on the third consecutive night of clashes in the city. As tensions in the country have intensified since the start of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, protests have also spread to several towns in the West Bank and along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu even called an emergency meeting and called for calm for all parties involved. Demand, however, has not stopped fighting.
Although less violent, Saturday night’s clashes included hundreds of police equipped with shock equipment operating with batons, water cannons and tear gas canisters at Palestinians who attacked by throwing stones and bottles.
At Damascus Gate, one of the main means of access to the Mosques Esplanade, located in the Old City, there were a few lighter clashes after the last prayer of the day. According to police, groups of young people set fire to landfills and were dispersed by officers.
“The police are the root of the problems. People want to sit here at Damascus Gate during Ramadan,” Fares, 22, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, told Reuters news agency. He did not want to give his full name. “All other places are closed because of the virus, everyone is at home. The Damascus Gate is very important to Palestinians and is the way to our holy places.”
According to Netanyahu, freedom of worship is maintained for all residents and visitors to Jerusalem. In Gaza, three more rockets were fired at Israel: one was intercepted by the Israeli missile shield, another exploded in a vacant lot and the last crashed into the territory of the Gaza Strip.
The rocket count is only a fraction of the 36 that were fired at Israel on Friday night, but it is a further warning sign for the attacks that have interrupted the months of calm relative to the Israeli border. Gaza.
In the same statement in which he declared the government’s desire to “maintain law and order” and called for calm for all involved, Netanyahu said the IDF was “prepared for any scenario” . Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz also said the military was ready for possible escalation. “If calm is not maintained in the south, Gaza will be badly affected, and those responsible will be the Hamas leadership,” he said.
Hamas, an Islamic group that controls Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, has expressed support for the Palestinians in Jerusalem and made threats against Israel. Positions identified by the army as belonging to Hamas were also targeted by rocket fire by Israel and monitored by tanks, combatants and military helicopters.
The Jerusalem scenario returned to international concern last Thursday. Palestinians, barred from holding nightly meetings, were particularly provoked when a group of ultra-nationalist Israelis marched, organized by the far-right Jewish movement Lahava, toward the Damascus Gate, chanting “Death to the Arabs” and “death to terrorists”.
There were clashes between the two groups and the police dispersed the protesters with tear gas canons and water cannons. The balance was at least 120 injured and 50 arrested.
Jerusalem is at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel claims the entire city, including its eastern sector captured in the 1967 war, as its capital. The Palestinians seek to make East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
A few minutes walk from the Damascus Gate, unlike the violence of recent days, around 150 Israeli peace activists staged a demonstration.
“We want to send a message to both the government [israelense] as for our Palestinian neighbors, that we will not remain silent in the face of violence, incitement and racism. We will defend the right of everyone to live in peace in Jerusalem, ”said Shaqued Morag, leader of the Peace Now group.